The road to playing professional sports includes countless reps, several breaks, and numerous people.
People who encourage growth, challenge and support the athlete.
It's no different for Lightning players, who have received different kinds of help from individuals all over the world en route to the National Hockey League. Parents and family members typically sit at the top of that list for most players, but the village that it takes to raise a professional athlete looks different for each player.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Times asked several Lightning players to name at least one non-family member for whom they are thankful in helping them become the hockey player they are today.
Here are their answers:
F Steven Stamkos: Jari Bryski, longtime skills coach
"I have been working with him since I was 8 years old. Still, to this day, in the summertime, I skate with him. He has had a big impact on my development and he has got such a great outlook on life that has really kept me positive through some of the tough times."
D Braydon Coburn: Paul Holmgren, former Philadelphia Flyers general manager
"He brought me in, and he really set my mind at ease a little bit. He made me feel really comfortable. Kind of got my confidence to a place where I felt I could be an everyday NHL player."
F Brayden Point: Skating instructor Barb Underhill and coaches Mike Stothers and Tim Hunter, who he worked with while playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL
"I think going into junior, it's such a different game from what you played before … Midget, Bantam or whatever. I think Stothers helped me so much understanding the game at a higher level. Where to go, what to do, when you have time, when you don't have time, things to try. He also gave me a ton of opportunity, especially at a young age, to play a lot. Same as Tim. He had a different way of thinking from (Stothers). Not totally different. But it is always good to learn from guys who have played good high-level hockey. Those two guys were huge.
"Barb, from a skating standpoint, I don't think I would have made the jump at the age I did without her. I think she was a huge help, just to help me gain a step and to be able to help me skate at the next level."
Mathieu Joseph: Mathieu Gravel, his Midget-level coach
"I was 15 years old, and I was a little too small. He kind of gave me a lot of confidence that year. He told me I was a good player and could do some good things and he was going to use me. He was one of the first guys to kind of believe in me and I am always going to be grateful for this guy for sure."
D Victor Hedman: Youth coaches
"Some youth coaches that I had who really believed in me even though in the beginning … I was still tall when I was young, but my coordination wasn't that good. They still believed in me and gave me a chance. I am forever grateful for all of the coaches I have had. I have learned something from each one of them."
D Ryan McDonagh: Mark Osiecki and Mike Eaves, former University of Wisconsin coaches
"(Osiecki) really helped me learn the defensive game at a higher level. He taught me terminology and things that I was going to see a lot more of with higher skilled players. He got me to really emphasize good habits."
F Cedric Paquette: Midget and junior coaches and his junior host family
"When I had some rough moments, (my host family members) were there for me and helped me get through the tough moments.
"I liked when the coaches were hard on me when I wasn't doing the right thing or taking bad penalties. I think they were both really good coaches for me."
F Ryan Callahan: Junior coaches
"Those guys kind of developed me as a player. They taught me how to play the game the right way, and I am thankful for that."
F Yanni Gourde: Benoit Groulx, Syracuse Crunch coach
"I think he pushed me hard to become a better player. He put me at center, that way I was using more of my speed. He kind of gave me a little bit more freedom offensively and defensively. I always took a lot of pride in playing good in the d zone. I think he kind of gave me the push I needed at that moment to become a better player as a center, being able to fulfill all three spots as a forward. It kind of gave me a lot of flexibility of where I could play."